Boosting Salt Tolerance in Licorice Plants with Betaine

Jenn Hoskins
4th March, 2024

Boosting Salt Tolerance in Licorice Plants with Betaine

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In a Shihezi University study, licorice seedlings treated with glycine betaine (GB) showed improved growth in salty soil
  • GB treatment increased root size and boosted protective substances in the plants
  • Treated seedlings were better at removing excess salt, especially sodium ions, from their leaves
Understanding how plants cope with salt stress is crucial for agriculture, especially in areas where soil salinity is a challenge. Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch., commonly known as licorice, is a plant of economic importance due to its medicinal properties. However, young licorice plants struggle to survive in salty soils, which poses a problem for cultivation. Researchers at Shihezi University have conducted a study[1] to explore how the application of a compound called glycine betaine (GB) can help licorice seedlings withstand salt stress. Salt stress can be detrimental to plants, leading to stunted growth, nutrient imbalances, and even plant death. It disrupts water uptake and can cause a buildup of harmful ions within plant cells[2]. To combat this, plants have developed various strategies, such as producing osmoregulatory substances that help maintain water balance and activating antioxidant enzymes to protect against cellular damage. The Shihezi University study investigated the effects of GB, a natural compound known to protect plants against stress, on licorice seedlings grown in salty conditions. The researchers treated the seedlings with different concentrations of GB and then exposed them to high levels of sodium chloride (NaCl), a common salt. They found that 20 mM GB was the most effective concentration for improving plant growth under salt stress. This treatment significantly increased the root length, surface area, and volume of the seedlings, indicating better overall plant health. Additionally, the GB treatment boosted the levels of osmoregulatory substances such as soluble proteins, sugars, and proline in the roots and leaves. These substances help plants retain water and maintain cellular integrity when faced with salt stress. The activity of an enzyme called betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (BADH2), which is involved in GB synthesis within the plant, also increased substantially. Moreover, the study showed that GB enhanced the activity of antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and peroxidase (POD), which play a crucial role in neutralizing harmful molecules that can accumulate under stress conditions[3]. The researchers also noted an increase in antioxidants, which further protect the plant cells from damage. Interestingly, the licorice seedlings treated with GB were better at secreting excess salt, particularly sodium ions, from their leaves. This ability to remove excess salt is vital for plant survival in saline environments[4]. The findings suggest that GB not only helps licorice seedlings manage the internal effects of salt stress but also assists in eliminating excess salt from their system. These results align with previous research showing that plants from saline environments, like the wild Glycyrrhiza uralensis, have a natural resilience to salt stress during early growth stages[5]. The study expands on this knowledge by demonstrating that GB can be used to enhance the salt tolerance of licorice seedlings, which typically have weaker salt resistance compared to mature plants. Furthermore, the study's findings complement other research into strategies for improving plant growth under saline conditions. For example, the use of biofertilizers and biochar has been shown to mitigate salt stress in maize by improving antioxidant activity and nutrient uptake[2]. Similarly, the application of exogenous betaine has been found to promote the growth of Suaeda salsa, a plant species native to coastal wetlands, by improving antioxidant capacity and osmotic stability[3]. In conclusion, the Shihezi University study offers a promising approach to cultivating licorice in salinized soils. By applying GB, farmers could potentially improve the survival and growth of licorice seedlings in challenging environments. This could lead to more sustainable agricultural practices and a more reliable production of this valuable medicinal plant. Future research should focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms behind GB's role in regulating salt stress tolerance, which could open up new avenues for enhancing crop resilience.

BiochemPlant ScienceAgriculture


Main Study

1) Exogenous betaine enhances salt tolerance of Glycyrrhiza uralensis through multiple pathways.

Published 2nd March, 2024

Related Studies

2) Alleviation of salinity stress by EDTA chelated-biochar and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on maize via modulation of antioxidants activity and biochemical attributes.

3) Disclosing the effect of exogenous betaine on growth of Suaeda salsa (L.) Pall in the Liaohe coastal wetland, North China.

4) Exogenous hydrogen sulfide mediates Na+ and K+ fluxes of salt gland in salt-secreting mangrove plant Avicennia marina.

5) Maternal Effects of Habitats Induce Stronger Salt Tolerance in Early-Stage Offspring of Glycyrrhiza uralensis from Salinized Habitats Compared with Those from Non-Salinized Habitats.

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